By the OilKnight 11/25/19
Despite being ranked #2 on this list, there’s no question Quinton Byfield is a phenomenal offensive talent and could easily go ahead of Drysdale in the actual NHL draft. He has a higher ceiling than any prospect in this draft and he is one of the youngest players that will have his name announced in June.
26 GP – 17 Goals, 29 assists, 46 points
Byfield is averaging almost 2 points a game and 29 of his 46 points are at even strength. He’s a bit better playmaker than scorer but plays in all situations and even has a couple of shorthanded assists. Byfield also leads all draft eligibles in shots on goal with 88.
Byfield has tremendous hands. He can dangle with the puck and has a real quick shot and release in tight. Even at high speeds, he is capable of stickhandling right through a defender then unleashing his fantastic release for a highlight reel goal. There is definitely a lot of “sexy” in his game.
Byfield also has an imposing frame and the ability to dominate OHL defenders with his size and reach. He does a great job of shielding defenders and providing puck protection. He is also adept at chipping a puck past a defender and reaching around him to maintain possession. Naturally, he creates a lot of turnovers of his long reach and he uses an active stick in the defensive zone to break up plays.
In terms of vision and hockey sense, Byfield grades extremely high in both. He has great offensive instincts and sees the ice so well. He delivers such crisp passes with great touch it is a treat to watch. He is an excellent playmaker because of his vision & hockey IQ, but also due to his ability to anticipate plays before they happen. He also does a good job at coming back and taking his man making him a very reliable 200 foot player.
For his size, Byfield is a very good skater with those long powerful strides. He also has nimble feet in tight. He’s capable of walking around defenders if you’re not careful, or can blow by them wide while shielding the puck. At 6’4″, 214 lbs he is pretty agile for such a big player. He gets a good knee bend and has excellent edge work which makes him a real force to stop. Just based on his skating & measurables alone he is a 1st round pick. Add in the quick hands, elite vision and quick shot & release it’s no wonder he’s considered one of the Top prospects this year in a deep draft.
As much as I like Quinton Byfield, there are two reasons why I don’t have him ranked as the Top OHL prospect.
The first thing that really keeps me from putting Byfield #1 is his overall lack of physicality despite his big frame. Too often he looks like a gentle giant out there. To fully dominate and maximize his potential at the NHL level I’d like to see him be more physically dominant. He does shy away from contact a lot and doesn’t finish a lot of his checks. Doing that would put fear into his opponents and create more turnovers. He’s a little too “finesse” for me with his size I’d like to see him use it more bottom line. Maybe he gets there eventually as he puts on weight and gets stronger. Not a true weakness necessarily just more of a personal preference.
The second thing I notice about Byfield is he can be guilty of trying to do too much at times, and doesn’t always shine in big moments. I know it seems like nitpicking but at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, he had some good moments but wasn’t even the best player on his Canadian team (Perfetti & Lapierre were). At the U17 World Hockey Challenge, he had a disappointing 3 points in 5 games (tied for 5th on team). I also thought Jamie Drysdale was the better player at both tournaments. Even at the CIBC Russia-Canada 2 game series vs. the OHL, Drysdale was the better player over Byfield in my opinion who was good but not great. I just don’t see enough to warrant “potential #1 overall pick“.
In the 2019 OHL playoffs, Sudbury was steamrolled in the 2nd round by the Top ranked Ottawa 67’s which wasn’t a surprise, but Byfield finished the series with only 1 assist and a -7 in 4 games as the Wolves were swept. There were plenty of turnovers & poor decisions by him and he was clearly frustrated. He was only 16 yrs old at the time though to his credit.
I guess I just don’t quite see the drive and determination that he is going to be unstoppable player worthy of a 1st overall pick in this draft. I see a big player who likes to play a finesse game & use his size & reach to his advantage against OHL defenders. Byfield loves to dangle but gets too cute sometimes and turns over the puck which can be an issue. Again, I really like the player I’m just not convinced he is a legit, franchise player that comes around every 5-10 years. I could definitely see more of an Eric Staal impact who has been a terrific NHL‘er for a very long time.
Despite being ranked 2nd on my OHL list, Byfield is widely considered the 2nd best prospect in this year’s draft and a potential franchise center. In fact, because he does play center and is some 10 months younger than Alexis Lafreniere, there are some who think the case could be made that Byfield should go 1st overall. For now, it seems that top spot is safe but with plenty of season to go including playoffs and a couple tournaments, there is time for Byfield to prove he is the best prospect of the entire 2020 draft class. There’s no denying his ceiling is huge and there is still some raw-ness in his game being so young.
DRAFT YEAR COMPARISON
Finding a comparison for Byfield isn’t easy as he has a rare combination of size/speed/skill. A popular comparison though by many is Evgeni Malkin who played in Russia as a 17 yr old. However, Byfield does kind of remind me more of now former NHL‘er Rick Nash. Nash, had similar size/speed/skill coming out of London in 2002, and ended up being the 1st overall pick that year. I see a lot of similarities between the two. Both are big men who aren’t overly physical but can really skate for their size. In fact, Nash was probably a bit faster & more physical in Junior than Byfield has shown so far but I still think they are close. They both had terrific puck skills in Junior and were/are handfuls for OHL defenders to contain. Byfield is definitely more of a playmaker though, whereas Nash was more of a goal scorer. Nash never scored 50 goals in a season or 100 points, and Byfield may not either, but he should still be a star eventually.
Regardless, I’m not 100% convinced Byfield is going to one of the Top 10 best players in the NHL in any given season, and honestly I’m not even sure how much more I like him over Andrei Svechnikov (2nd overall in 2018) or Kaapo Kakko (2nd overall in 2019) right now despite the physical tools. He’s still a terrific talent nonetheless and could be another Nash who had at least 30 goals in 8 different seasons – or Eric Staal type player eventually. That makes him an incredibly appealing prospect who as mentioned – has enormous upside. I fully acknowledge and accept Byfield will likely be drafted ahead of Drysdale at the actual draft because of his long-term potential & high offensive ceiling, but I would still take the defenceman if it were up to me.
Prediction: Top 3 Overall